I was sorry that Sir Eric Pickles lost his place in the cabinet after the General Election. However we are reminded today thatSir Eric is still making a contribution to public life as the Government’s Anti-Corruption champion.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph this morning Sir Eric says:
“Despite the fact that there are London elections next year, a sizeable minority of those voters signed up in Tower Hamlets remain unverified and could be fakes. In Hackney, the situation is even worse, with almost a quarter of the electorate unverified and potentially non-existent. We urgently need to clean up these registers. Across the country, electors from abroad are not properly checked to ensure that they qualify to vote when they register. Fraudulent registration is frequently tied to illegal immigration, as illegal migrants sign up to make it easier to get credit or a mobile phone. Such illegality feeds through to further crimes, such as benefit and housing fraud.”
He also made an outspoken but valid comparison:
“Just as we have seen with child sexual exploitation in places such as Rochdale and Rotherham, institutionalised political correctness can lead to the state turning a blind eye to criminal conduct. But the law must be applied equally and fairly to everyone. Integration and good community relations are undermined by the failure to do so.”
While the introduction of individual registration has helped to “remove phantom voters” Sir Eric believes more is needed “to stamp out voter registration fraud and error; postal voting fraud; impersonation; bribery; and undue influence and intimidation.”
Democracy in Tower Hamlets was only restored after a group of four residents showed the courage and persistence to take their evidence to court. Good for them. But it should not have been necessary. If the Electoral Services department of a town hall is failing then a new team should be imposed who are up to the job.
Nor was it good enough in Tower Hamlets to have a lot of passive buck passing from the Electoral Commission and the Metropolitan Police.
This does not mean that getting a robust system in place to stop electoral fraud will be easy. But Sir Eric is the man for the job.